Maryland's history has been enriched in the eyes of ""outlanders"" by his fresh gift. Neil Swanson writes history with so creative a pen that he makes it live -- he makes it exciting reading. I've always felt that his historical fiction would have longer life if labeled non-fiction, and that is particularly true of this --which has no plot other than the Battle of Baltimore- the defense of Fort McHenry- the birth of The Star Spangled Banner. He has made that little noticed battle memorable- he has built history around the figure of Sam Smith, appointed head of the Committee of Vigilance and Safety after the Blandensburg defeat exposed Baltimore to the fate of Washington in 1914. Only Sam Smith could have improvised a force practically overnight, improvised- too- a strategy which worked- guessed right as to the moves the British would make- and brought victory out of defeat, a victory that turned the tide of war. For the long haul.